Diplo­mats’ fam­i­lies pulled from Cuba af­ter ail­ments

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

TORONTO: Canada’s for­eign min­istry said on Mon­day that it is or­der­ing fam­i­lies of diplo­matic staff in Cuba to re­turn home amid ques­tions about mys­te­ri­ous health symp­toms de­tected in 10 peo­ple who were sta­tioned on the is­land.

Cana­dian diplo­mats will no longer be ac­com­pa­nied by fam­ily mem­bers in Cuba be­cause of what it called “on­go­ing un­cer­tainty’’ over the cause of the ail­ments, the min­istry said in a state­ment. Spouses, chil­dren or even par­ents of diplo­mats al­ready with them in Ha­vana will be­gin leav­ing im­me­di­ately.

The move comes af­ter 10 Cana­di­ans con­tinue to show un­ex­plained brain symp­toms and af­ter “med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion raised con­cerns for a new type of a pos­si­ble ac­quired brain in­jury.’’ Symp­toms have in­cluded dizzi­ness, headaches and lack of abil­ity to con­cen­trate.

The US State Depart­ment cut staff at its em­bassy in Oc­to­ber be­cause of sim­i­lar symp­toms af­fect­ing 24 Amer­i­can diplo­mats and de­pen­dents.

For­mer US State Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son said the symp­toms re­sulted from “tar­geted at­tacks’’ but not who may have been be­hind them.

Cuba has re­peat­edly de­nied ei­ther in­volve­ment in or knowl­edge of any at­tacks and has said its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ill­nesses has turned up no ev­i­dence of de­lib­er­ate ac­tion. The United States has not ac­cused Cuba of such ac­tion but has said Ha­vana holds re­spon­si­bil­ity none­the­less, ar­gu­ing that such in­ci­dents could not have oc­curred on the small, com­mu­nist-run is­land with­out the knowl­edge of Cuban of­fi­cials.

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment said re­sults of an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment of diplo­matic staff quar­ters in Ha­vana, in­clud­ing tests of air and wa­ter qual­ity, did not in­di­cate any­thing that could point to a cause.

Ques­tions emerged “more re­cently’’ with in­for­ma­tion from Cana­dian med­i­cal spe­cial­ists in­volved in the eval­u­a­tion of af­fected diplo­mats and de­pen­dents as well as from US spe­cial­ists that “raised con­cerns for a new type of a pos­si­ble ac­quired brain in­jury,’’ the min­istry said.

“Ad­di­tional re­search is needed to bet­ter un­der­stand this. The cause re­mains un­known but could be hu­man-made.’’

Cuba is a fa­vorite tourist des­ti­na­tion for Cana­di­ans, but the for­eign min­istry said there is no ev­i­dence of any re­lated ail­ments among Cana­dian trav­ellers

The for­eign min­istry said Canada has a “pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive re­la­tion­ship’’ with Cuba and has re­ceived close co­op­er­a­tion from the Cuban au­thor­i­ties since the health con­cerns sur­faced in Cana­di­ans last spring. The mys­te­ri­ous case has sent US-Cuba re­la­tions plum­met­ing from what had been a high point when the two coun­tries, es­tranged for a half cen­tury, re­stored full diplo­matic ties un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in 2015.

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